Is a second lockdown looming? On Friday, Punjab issued guidelines that brought back several of the restrictions of the stricter phase of the 75-days of lockdown.
With Covid-19 infection spreading unabated, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh approved curbs on movement of people on weekends and holidays in the state, restrictions on inter-district travel and opening of shops. He had announced these fresh curbs on Thursday.
In Delhi, with the infection spreading and footfall of shoppers negligible in its markets, shopkeepers have decided to impose a voluntary lockdown.
The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) has said it will seek views of traders in an online survey across Delhi, but seemed convinced that shops should remain shut for the time being. Several shopping malls have remained shut in the national capital despite the Delhi government having allowed them to reopen.
In Maharashtra, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, however, sought to dispel rumours on Friday of another round of lockdown because of increasing cases.
Punjab restricts inter-district travel
In Punjab, the fresh guidelines state that all non-essential shops will remain shut on Sundays, and close by 5pm on Saturdays. On weekdays, shops will shut by 7pm.
Liquor shops have been exempted from this and will remain open on all days until 8pm, as will restaurants but only for home delivery.
Inter-district movement of people is also restricted, except for essential services. Wedding functions will only be allowed with e-passes for 50 people.
In addition to the Sunday closure, district magistrates may choose, in consultation with the respective market associations, to order closure of the non-essential shops on any other day of the week also, especially in the high-risk areas where cases are high, the guidelines state.
Inter-district movement shall be allowed for those with e-passes, which will be issued only for essential work, but no pass shall be required for such travel in case of medical emergency.
E-passes will also be required for marriage functions, and will be issued only for 50 people.
There have been mass forwarded messages on social media in the state that a renewed lockdown was looming. Maharashtra has the highest number of Covid-19 cases.
The government on Friday tried to dispel the speculation. “The lockdown has not been reimposed. CM Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray has appealed to the people to refrain from crowding. He has earnestly requested them to follow the government’s instructions and take necessary precautions to stay safe and take care," the Chief Minister's Office tweeted from its official handle.
"Please do not give into fake news
about lockdown. As of now, Begin Again is in motion. @CMOMaharashtra Uddhav Thackeray ji has appealed to all citizens to ensure social distancing, so as to not get even close to a lockdown. Safety of citizens is and will be the only parameter," Maharashtra minister Aaditya Thackeray tweeted.
The speculation of another lockdown started after the CM on Wednesday cautioned the easing of restrictions could be rolled back if people didn't follow social distancing rules strictly.
In Delhi, the CAIT said it will conduct an online survey among shopkeepers whether they want to shut down markets since the Delhi government has said the national capital could have over 500,000 cases by the end of July. It said the traders are now “fearful”.
CAIT’s Praveen Khandelwal said they have asked six questions in the online survey. These are: whether you agree that corona cases in Delhi are growing quickly; do you think that coronavirus
will spread to the markets if these remain open; are sufficient medical facilities available in Delhi in proportion to the way corona cases are increasing; are you worried about the rise of corona cases in the markets; and should the markets be closed at the moment to protect Delhi's traders and customers from corona.
Khandelwal said business is barely 5-10 per cent of usual in Delhi’s markets. In the wholesale markets, customers from outside Delhi are not coming, whereas in the retail markets, local customers are not coming at all because of the increasing cases, he said.
The traders will take a final decision on markets closure on Saturday.